Cover Illustration: Science Film Festival Philippines /
I’ve been working these past few weeks with Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan on the second edition of Science Film Festival in India. We’ve got some amazing films this year, and I’m very excited to be part of the organizing team.
Photographs from the Science Film Festival workshop held between August 20-22, 2018 in Bangkok, Thailand, led by the amazing Andreas Klempin from Goethe-Institut Thailand.
Along with Geetha Vedaraman from Goethe-Institut (Chennai) and other wonderful participants from a dozen countries, I am really thrilled to be able to introduce some of my favorite DIY experiments and science activities in a workbook for primary/secondary teachers and students around the world.
Here I presented activities on the future of farming in response to this year’s top film selections that explore current food trends and crises, and the coming food revolution powered by AI and agricultural robots, bio-engineering, advocacy, among other critical factors.
The Goethe-Institut/ Max Mueller Bhavan is the cultural institute of the Federal Republic of Germany with a global reach. We promote the study of German abroad and encourage international cultural exchange. We also foster knowledge about Germany by providing information on its cultural, social and political life.
The Science Film Festival is a celebration of science communication and enjoys a unique position in Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, The Philippines, Vietnam), South Asia (India, Sri Lanka), Sub-saharan Africa (Burkina Faso, Namibia, Mali, Rwanda, Ethiopia, South Africa) North Africa and the Middle East (Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Palestinian Territories, Qatar,Sudan and the United Arab Emirates). In cooperation with local partners it promotes science literacy and facilitates awareness of contemporary scientific, technological and environmental issues through film and television content with accompanying educational activities. The festival presents scientific issues accessibly and entertainingly to a broad audience and demonstrates that science can be communicated in an educational, as well as entertaining manner. The event has grown considerably since its first edition in 2005, becoming the largest event of its kind and one of the biggest film festivals worldwide in terms of audience reach.
By facilitating cooperation between local and international agencies from the scientific, cultural, educational and environmental sector, with the generous support of the international film and television community, an effective infrastructure is put in place for the dissemination of scientific understanding and access to knowledge. All films are synchronized into local languages to offer viewers access to the content without language barriers. During the festival period, the films are screened non-commercially in museums, schools, universities and other educational venues through coordinated efforts of partners with existing networks and the capabilities to organize such screenings. The festival offers a platform for cultural exchange through which different approaches to the world of science converge.
The Science Film Festival 2018 takes place in 23 countries from October to December, 2018. In India we have selected 38 films for the festival. 10 films for the age group from 9 to 12 years and 13 films for the age group from 12 to 16 years. We have selected 15 films for the University (17+) & General audiences. There will be activities accompanying all the films for which self-explanatory sheets will be provided to the teachers.
Titled The Selfish Ledger, the 9-minute film starts off with a history of Lamarckian epigenetics, which are broadly concerned with the passing on of traits acquired during an organism’s lifetime. Narrating the video, Foster acknowledges that the theory may have been discredited when it comes to genetics but says it provides a useful metaphor for user data. (The title is an homage to Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book The Selfish Gene.) The way we use our phones creates “a constantly evolving representation of who we are,” which Foster terms a “ledger,” positing that these data profiles could be built up, used to modify behaviors, and transferred from one user to another:
“User-centered design principles have dominated the world of computing for many decades, but what if we looked at things a little differently? What if the ledger could be given a volition or purpose rather than simply acting as a historical reference? What if we focused on creating a richer ledger by introducing more sources of information? What if we thought of ourselves not as the owners of this information, but as custodians, transient carriers, or caretakers?”
The so-called ledger of our device use — the data on our “actions, decisions, preferences, movement, and relationships” — is something that could conceivably be passed on to other users much as genetic information is passed on through the generations, Foster says.
The four-week long fellowship program to be held in New Delhi from June 11 – July 6, 2018 will be attended by “a distinguished cohort of highly motivated individuals selected through a rigorous process from applicants across the world studying in some of the world’s leading universities…. This is an exciting opportunity for bright young people across India to come together and think through the Future of India with those at the apex of India’s policymaking.”
About the Fellowship
“The Fellowship will focus on developing an understanding of the political considerations and implications of different policy choices to build a new generation of liberal, democratic and compassionate young leaders across India. Senior Congress leaders like P. Chidambaram, Salman Khurshid, Sam Pitroda, Jairam Ramesh, Ajay Maken, K Raju, Shashi Tharoor, Meenakshi Natarajan, Sachin Pilot and academics and activists have committed to teaching parts of the course. The Fellowship will bridge the gap between the theory and practice of policymaking, by facilitating interactions with leading policymakers, field visits, and simulation exercises.
The idea is to broad-base the NSUI platform to offer space for multiple forms of political activity and give bright young people an opportunity to engage with Congress leaders they may otherwise not have access to. This is an attempt too to provide space to young people who are aligned with Congress ideology but *not ready* to join the Party.” [* emphasis yours truly.* ]
Here’s what really excited me about the program:
– Public Policy & Analysis – Role of the State in Development
– The Birth and Evolution of Indian Policy
– Governance and Public Institutions: Strengthening Democracy and the Current Crisis
– Reforming the State: Limits of Democratic Government
– Public Administration and Management
– Tryst with Destiny – Indian Economic Policy
– Role of the State – Ensuring Access
– Bridging the Bharath vs India Divide
– Resource Management
– Reforming the State: Limits of Democratic Government
– Legal System
– India’s Place in the world
– Role of State – Ensuring Equity
– Governance and Public Management
– Reforming the state: Limits of Democratic Government
– Ensuring Sustainable Development
– Power to the people
– Urban Poverty and Citizenship
– Careers in Politics and Public Policy
– Fundamentals of Democratic Nations
– Role of State – Ensuring Justice
– Conflict Management in a Democracy
– Electoral Management and Power Politics
– India’s Place in the World
– Policy Communications
“The City Was Missing,” one of my city poems appear in the latest issue of Star*Line, edited by Vince Gotera, and published by SFPA: Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (America). I just received a contributor’s copy, and the cover illustration is gorgeous, also the poems!
The opening two lines of this poem will be featured in The Mumbai Collaborative Poetry Project (MCPP) — the first ever video poem themed on the city of Mumbai — curated by Vinita Agrawal. Twenty-five poets will be featured in the project, including Nabina Das and Priya Sarukkai Chabria.
Here are my notes for the poem from March 22, 2015:
“Two weeks after The New York Times asked PM Modi to speak about the mounting violence against India’s religious minorities, he broke his dangerous silence. ‘My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly,’ he assured Christian leaders. The attack on a Navi Mumbai church this Saturday showed that it would take more than rhetoric from the iron man of secular India to protect its minorities. This poem is a warning against the departure of religious tolerance and cosmopolitan spirit from Mumbai, formerly Bombay. (The city’s name was officially changed to Mumbai at the behest of a local Hindu-nationalist party because Bombay sounded so British.) Ultimately, it is about our personal relationships with cities we come to associate ourselves with.”
“The City Was Missing” first appeared in my poetry collection Khas Pidgin (Amazon, Barnes & Noble & iBooks). If you haven’t purchased or read it already and would like to receive a review copy, let me know. Happy reading! ???
Three of my poems “At Rajiv Chowk Metro Station,” “Khas Pidgin” and “Foreign Tongue” appear in the latest Sage issue of Coldnoon, an international journal of travel writing & traveling cultures. These poems are part of my debut collection, Khas Pidgin.
I think I wrote the poem “Khas Pidgin” in 2009, and “Foreign Tongue” in 2014? I am certain that I wrote “At Rajiv Chowk Metro Station” in 2014, because I have these notes for the poem written for a poetry-challenged friend the same year:
While waiting for the train at Rajiv Chowk, I was reading Amit Chaudhuri’s essay titled “Beyond ‘Confidence’: Rushdie and the Creation Myth of Indian writing in English” from his collection Clearing House.
He writes that there was Indian writing in English before Rushdie, a fact that the arriviste India seems to have forgotten. He concludes:
That’s why Indian writing, in the last one hundred and fifty years, represents not so much a one-dimensional struggle for, or embodiment, power, as a many-sided cosmopolitan. It isn’t enough, today, to celebrate Indian writing’s ‘success,’ after having identified what its marks of success are (as if the whole tradition must only, and constantly, be thought of as an arriviste would be); one needs to engage with its long, subterranean history (as hard-earned as political freedom itself) of curiosity and openness.
When I closed the book and lifted my eyes, they caught a brief but warm reflection of a face on the glass door of the metro. I thought it was mine, but I can’t be certain now.
The Indian writing in English is a blob and its seeming triumph, perhaps a brief rupture in what the western critics (dust and chatter) consider their canon (text).
And Indian writers (brown light) writing in English can’t be blamed for not knowing exactly who they are writing for (and the question is irrelevant, Chauduri argues)—they are faceless dots in the literary world, the mirror of their times.